July 21, 2024
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Synergy HomeCare of Bergen County Brings Expertise to NY

When COVID began to strike older adults hard, families panicked: Who would take care of their loved ones who were sick and lived alone? Synergy HomeCare of Bergen County was one of the only home health care agencies that sent aides to care for patients with COVID-19 at home. “We took every case and helped a lot of people, and it helped us grow tremendously,” said David Bersson, who started a Synergy HomeCare franchise with Ethan Keiser in Teaneck in 2017. Growth has meant not only expanding the Bergen County office, but bringing their expertise into New York.

Synergy’s model of “business with a heart” caught the attention of the Synergy corporate administration, who asked Bersson to take over the New York franchise. “They felt we would help grow New York by duplicating the formula we developed in New Jersey,” said Bersson. “We run our agency like a business, but we care. We will literally listen to every person who needs help and do our best to accommodate them.”

After a thorough search, Bersson recruited Arkady J. Nitkin as chief experience officer, and Sheena C. Bray as executive director for Synergy HomeCare in New York. Nitkin came to the U.S. in 1988 after crisscrossing the globe as a refugee from Communist Russia. “I saw the care the Jewish community provided to immigrants and refugees like me,” he said. “That’s where I learned to love and care for others.” After high school, Nitkin studied business and began a career in health care medical equipment. From there he switched to nursing homes where he became a director of business development. “When David walked into my life, I saw what Synergy stood for,” he said. “Our goals were aligned. With David, it’s about the care, empathy and going above and beyond, even helping families that might not be our clients with guidance about how to get the resources they need.”

Bray has been the executive director of two health care agencies and joined Synergy HomeCare of New York for the opportunity to be part of a growing company focused on keeping clients safely at home. “We always treat our clients like we would want our family treated,” said Bray. “For many of our clients, we are family. We are their advocate and provide support at all times.” Bray said they help many families who struggle with caring for their aging parents and young children simultaneously. “We take that burden off their shoulders,” she said.

Synergy HomeCare of New York provides assistance to clients who need someone to help them get to and from medical care. Nitkin said they are offering this service because issues often start when older adults miss doctor appointments, follow-ups and procedures when they don’t have anyone to go with them. Synergy offers a flat rate four-hour companion fee with an hourly charge after that. The service is available to clients in their own homes, nursing homes and assisted living residences.

Synergy HomeCare of New York also works with nonprofit agencies. They have just accepted a request from Self-Help, a program that provides in-home care to Holocaust survivors, and Vet Assist, a nonprofit that helps veterans navigate the government system to get home care quicker than the usual months-long wait.

The current labor shortage is affecting home health care; there is a shortage of qualified home health aides looking for work. Bersson said he looks beyond experience to find the right personalities. “Many aides with experience become jaded. We look for a happy, friendly person with a nice smile who can make a person feel better,” he said. “We expect a lot, so we teach them what our expectations are and match them to the patient, like how to provide dementia care, and what kind of household they are walking into such as how to use a kosher kitchen.”

Sandy Contreras, who was recently promoted to executive director at Synergy HomeCare of Bergen County, has gotten dementia care specialist certification. “It’s a team effort; they have support in the office and we work together.” Synergy recently hired a community liaison to visit caregivers and clients to make sure the relationships are going smoothly.

Synergy HomeCare of Bergen County is starting its own school to train certified home health aides, with the opening expected in the first quarter of 2022. “We have wanted to do this from the beginning,” said Bersson. “The best way to make sure our aides do everything with our philosophy is to train them from day one.” To qualify, students must be high school graduates over 18 years old and pass a background check. The program will have the standard 76 hours of instruction with both online and clinical work. Graduates who join Synergy will get tuition reimbursement. “We want to standardize the level of care so everyone gets what they need,” said Bersson.

Families looking for caregivers can contact Synergy HomeCare of Bergen County, 1029 Teaneck Road, Suite 3D, 201-833-1500; or Arkady Nitkin, director, Synergy HomeCare of New York at 917-697-6969, 1345 Avenue of the Americas, 33rd floor.

By Bracha Schwartz

 

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